Tribute to the Brand behind the Singapore Success Story: Mr. Lee Kuan Yew

April 2015
Tribute to the Brand behind the Singapore Success Story: Mr. Lee Kuan Yew

Tribute to the Brand behind the Singapore Success Story: Mr. Lee Kuan Yew

Many strong corporate brands have a strong leader to drive them to prominence. For instance, in Apple we had Steve Jobs, and in GE we had Jack Welch. And for our Nation brand, Singapore, we were fortunate to have Mr.Lee Kuan Yew. As a tribute to Mr.Lee, let us reflect how he has developed Singapore into an international renown and well respected brand.

A strong nation brand is instrumental for propelling the economy upwards by drawing foreign investments, enhancing the appeal of Singapore entrepreneurial initiatives in the international markets, and most importantly to garner national cohesiveness and pride. Let us examine 2 key areas on how Mr.Lee developed Singapore into a formidable nation brand overtime – 1) Strong identity that engages with the target audience and 2) Strategic brand management.

A Strong Identity that Engages with the Target Audience

First, all strong brands possess a salient identity that project consistent attributes which are relevant to its target audience. This brand identity would frequently stems from the passion of its leader or founder. Similarly for brand Singapore, its brand essence or brand DNA is very much reflective of the characteristics of Mr. Lee – uncompromising integrity, intense resilience and a relentless pursuit for excellence. This brand essence is manifested in the governance of the country – high level of education system, world class airport, efficient transportation systems, clean environment, promotion of entrepreneurship and etc.

However, in addition, what is particularly unique in Singapore’s situation is that we had Mr.Lee as a strong ingredient brand that helped to further drive Singapore forward. Mr.Lee was a leader that commanded a lot of respect in the early years, and his rapid rise to international prominence among leaders in the developed countries has lent tremendous support to building Singapore’s credibility. Even after he had retired formally as the Prime Minister of Singapore, the mention of Mr.Lee still invoked a lot of respect and salient association towards the country.

Strategic Brand Management

The second area pertaining to strategic nation brand management is how Mr.Lee had helped Singapore brand evolve over time, particularly to the next generation of leaders and citizens. If we examine brands with charismatic leaders, the departure of a leader often engender to loss of confidence towards the brand (e.g. when Steve Jobs passed on during his helm in Apple). But in the case of Singapore, Mr.Lee ensured that his distancing away from national governance was performed gradually – by firstly taking the role of a Senior Minister and followed by Minister Mentor. This was coupled with the institutionalisation of the brand DNA into the governance system of the country during his leadership tenure. During the “distancing” phase, he allowed time for new leadership to garner trust and familiarity from both international and domestic stakeholders. On this premise, Singapore as a brand was not negatively impacted but rather continues to shift gears seamlessly into the next phase of economic and social growth.

This briefly summarises the brilliance of Mr.Lee in transforming the nation brand of Singapore – from Third World to First World. In short, Mr.Lee is the brand behind the success of Singapore brand that we owe our gratitude. Mr.Lee is definitely an iconic brand in his own rights ….and iconic brands like Mr.Lee Kuan Yew never dies; they only leave a lasting mark in our hearts and mind.